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October 31, 2011 at 8:30 AM

Rangers could easily become the Buffalo Bills of baseball

Word this morning that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has retired. Wow, they sure didn’t have much time to celebrate that World Series in St. Louis, did they? Well, at least they got the weekend.
As for the Texas Rangers, it could take a lot longer to get over that Game 6 collapse.
Maybe never. Don’t get me wrong. I do think the Rangers could get back to the Fall Classic. But winning it? Let’s see, they just got beat in consecutive years by opponents who weren’t exactly, uh, how to put this…perennial juggernauts?
The 2010 San Francisco Giants and the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals had some things in common besides being World Series champs. Neither was expected to win even their own divisions before the season began. In fact, the Cards didn’t come close to winning theirs. And both teams had to put together fantastic runs over the final two months of the season just to make the playoffs. Both then had to deliver a series of clutch — some might say “fluke” — hits to prevail in their playoff series.
In other words, no. These World Series opponents for the Rangers were hardly what you’d call the best of the best. They were teams that got hot at the right time and maintained their hot streaks throughout October. But they are not candidates to repeat as playoff teams the way a squad like the Phillies is year in and year out. The Giants, for all of their good pitching, came crashing back to earth in 2010 because they truly were just an ordinary team behind those arms. And the Cards? Well, let’s just say it will be shocking to see them duplicate this feat next season.
The Phillies? They’ve made the playoffs five years in a row, won one title and lost a second. Yeah, they were taken out in a short series by the Cards after Cliff Lee — for one of the few times you’ll ever see — failed to hold a 4-0 lead in Game 2. If the Phils win that game, the Cards likely get swept and we never hear from them again. That’s baseball.
But what I’m trying to say is, one of these years, the Rangers might actually face a truly elite World Series opponent. One that doesn’t have to scrape a rotation together, or win 20 of its final 25 games simply to make the playoffs. So, what happens then?
Well, the Rangers likely lose again. And that’s where the Buffalo Bills come into play.
The Bills made history by becoming the only team to lose three and then four Super Bowls in a row.
In baseball, the last team to lose back-to-back World Series was the Atlanta Braves in 1991 and 1992. You have to go back nearly 100 years to find a team that lost three in a row: the 1911-1913 New York Giants, preceded only by the 1907-1909 Detroit Tigers. No team has ever lost four in a row.
Now, as with the Bills, it takes a certain skill level to lose that many championships in a row, simply because you have to be good enough to get there. Unlike the Giants and now, the Cards, the Rangers appear built to last. They have enough position players locked up long-term for repeat runs and ownership appears poised to throw some money around this off-season in order to fill any pitching vacancies should C.J. Wilson wind up leaving. Look for the Rangers to try to replace C.J. with C.C. — as in Sabathia — should the Yankees ace opt out of his deal, as expected.
Photo Credit: AP

But even with Sabathia, would the Rangers have what it takes to prevail in a World Series against the likes of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels? Not feeling it.
Would they be able to take out the Braves, assuming that squad doesn’t pull a late season collapse this time and manages to take a developmental step forward in 2012?
I wouldn’t put money on it. Atlanta’s pitching is too deep and their position players will have another year under their belts.
The Giants and Cards might be two of the “easiest” World Series opponents — at least on paper — that a team could hope to draw. Had you given the Rangers the option back in March of facing either of those squads, or some other, they would likely have picked the opponents they eventually got.
Yeah, this is a bit of a diss towards both NL teams, but what can I say? The Giants showed what they were this season and the Cards will likely do the same next year. Those of you who wrote in admonishing me a year ago for a lack of “respect” towards San Francisco, well, the Giants are what some of us thought they were. An average team with some really good arms that got hot and lucky at the same time.
The best teams in baseball don’t always win. That’s why it’s foolish to plan ahead for World Series victories. You plan ahead to make the playoffs and then hope you don’t get cold at the wrong time. And much of the time, the top regular season teams do manage to carry it over. But the best teams in baseball are the ones that keep making the playoffs — or staying in races up to the end — year in and year out.
And if you’re the Rangers, you don’t want to face one of those teams if you do make it back to the Fall Classic. You’d probably rather square off against a squad with one ace and a bunch of question marks like the Cards and take your chances.
If not, then three World Series losses in a row are entirely possible with this team.
Remember the Bills? They suffered their first two Super Bowl defeats against a Giants team they were rightly favored against — losing only when Scott Norwood missed his infamous 47-yard field goal attempt on the final play — and then a Redskins squad that seemed to pop out of nowhere only to vanish again just as quickly.
After that, though, they had to twice face a Dallas Cowboys team of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and company. A legit dysnasty type of squad as opposed to one-and-done.
The Rangers know all about the Cowboys, since they play about a quarter mile up the road from one another. And the Rangers, if they do ultimately get back to the big show, don’t want to face anything remotely close to that upper level brand of competitor the Cowboys were in the early-to-mid 1990s.
Because if they do, then, just like the Bills, the Rangers will likely wind up in the history books for all the wrong reasons.



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